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Books Read in 2012

Frank Bellizzi
 
Land of Steady Habits: A Brief History of Connecticut
Land of Steady Habits: A Brief History of Connecticut
"A quick read, this book overviews Connecticut history from early Dutch exploration to the late 1980s."
Legacy Churches
Legacy Churches
"In the U.S. alone, about 3,200 churches close their doors every year. This book explains that all congregations eventually die and offers wise counsel to churches that are nearing the end of their life cycle. The authors recommend that dying congregations become "legacy churches" by using their financial resources to begin one or more new congregations."
Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea
Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea
"The subtitle helps a lot here: The History of a Puritan Idea. Morgan, one of the great historians of American religion, traces Puritan ideas and practices regarding what the church is and who belongs in it, beginning with the rise of the Reformation in England to about 1700. A classic!"
ChristÂ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism
ChristÂ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism
"This big, impressive book focuses on social, political, and cultural aspects of (mostly) the Calvinist branch of the Reformation. Thoroughly researched and scholarly, it is not light reading."
Calico Joe
Calico Joe
"One of a handful of non-legal books by the great John Grisham. And like "A Painted House," this one has connections to Arkansas. It's a baseball story, and I don't know how much it helps to understand the game to appreciate this one."
The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia)
The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia)
"Foster observes that historians often treat English migration to America as a brand new beginning. Puritan studies are no exception to this rule. To understand Puritanism, says the author, "Reassemble the English and American halves, examine the result over time, and with a proper regard to its settings, and the rough outline of the beast becomes visible enough" (p. 5)."
Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War
Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War
"This book surveys the landscape of American Christian theology from 1636 to 1865. Holifield states his thesis as follows: “The overarching theme of this book is the claim that a majority of theologians in early America shared a preoccupation with the reasonableness of Christianity that predisposed them toward such an understanding of theology” (4)."
Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism
Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism
"A carefully-researched, well-written book. Knight convincingly argues that the standard Perry-Miller portrait of a single orthodox Puritanism stands to be corrected and supplemented. There never was a unified Puritanism. There were, instead, two distinct Puritan traditions. Recognizing this distinction opens up new understandings of Puritan history, politics, and theology."
To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension in Puritanism (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia)
To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension in Puritanism (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia)
"First, Bozeman identifies the biblical-restorationist strand in English Puritanism from earliest times. Second, he shows how this principle was commonly assumed in American Puritanism as well. He convincingly argues that Puritans were committed to a radical application of an old idea: “restoration of primitive purity was to be achieved by massive imitation of the New Testament pattern” (39)."
Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641
Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641
"A first-rate detailed account of the so-called Antinomian Controversy, “arguably the single most important event in seventeenth-century American colonial history." Winship is a fine historian and a good writer too. Highly recommended."
The Enlightenment in America (Galaxy Books)
The Enlightenment in America (Galaxy Books)
"Scholars often speak of "the Enlightenment" as though it were one thing. May says that there were four distinct Enlightenments that impacted America. In more or less chronological order, they were: Moderate, Skeptical, Revolutionary, and Didactic. This book is about understanding these types as they relate to American religion."
The People with No Name: Ireland's Ulster Scots, America's Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764.
The People with No Name: Ireland's Ulster Scots, America's Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764.
"Griffin begins by explaining that between 1718 and 1775, over 100,000 people migrated from the Irish province of Ulster to the American colonies. This book tells their sad and difficult story. Along the way, Griffin indicates how their lives and experience contributed to the development of what he terms “a British Atlantic world.”"
Holy Fairs: Scotland and the Making of American Revivalism
Holy Fairs: Scotland and the Making of American Revivalism
"The earliest camp-meeting revivals along the western frontier of America were not spontaneous or unprecedented. These were, in fact, planned regional communion gatherings, a tradition which began in Scotland in the early 1600s."
The Democratization of American Christianity
The Democratization of American Christianity
"A contemporary classic, this book argues that the predominant theme of American Christianity is democracy. History and tradition are swept away in favor of the impulse of the common man. The critical period in the development of this distinctive outlook was 1780-1830."
Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875
Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875
"The authors emphasize that although their book might appear to be about Puritans, Baptists, "Christians," and Mormons (the subjects of individual chapters), more precisely their topic is 'the peculiar logic of the restoration theme in the American context' (xiv). Sophisticated and provocative, this book is about 'the myth of restoring the first times' in Protestant America."
Noah's Compass: A Novel
Noah's Compass: A Novel
"A wonderful novel by the great Anne Tyler. The story's about a 60-year-old man who's recently lost his job and has packed it in, now just waiting to die. But he discovers that he's not finished living."
Religion and the American Nation: Historiography and History
Religion and the American Nation: Historiography and History
"Originally three lectures in a series, this book is an introduction to what's been written about the history of religion in America. An excellent survey. But the last chapter is comparatively weak."
Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits
Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits
"A fine monograph that explores the lives of Catherine Tekakwitha, an exceptional Mohawk convert to Roman Catholicism, and her Jesuit hagiographers. Historical sleuthing at its best!"
Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South
Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South
"A ground-breaking study of the subject. Raboteau says that in addition to the white-dominated churches they attended with their masters, slaves had their own "invisible" churches where they praised the Christian God is ways that were authentic to them."
Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920
Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920
"I know. The title sounds like a slasher film. So what's this book really about? In the words of the author, it's about "the afterlife of a Redeemer Nation that died," the Confederacy, but that nonetheless continued "as a sacred presence, a holy ghost haunting the spirits and actions of post-Civil War Southerners.""
The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle
The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle
"Reed Smoot, one of the twelve apostles of Mormonism at the beginning of the 1900s, was elected U.S. Senator from Utah. This book relates the ensuing political give-and-take between the U.S. and the LDS Church, and how the process changed them both."
Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America
Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America
"A superb biography. Well-researched and well-written. The author has family roots in the Foursquare Gospel denomination, which McPherson began. It seems that he's a little too sympathetic to his subject. But, still, a great book."
The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, Third Edition
The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, Third Edition
"Orsi begins: "This is a study of religion in the streets. It is the story of a religious celebration, the annual festa of the Madonna of Mount Carmel on East 115th Street in New York City, . . . " (xiii). Orsi wants to get at the heart of what this particular festa and sanctuary were all about, and how they related to Italian Catholic life in East Harlem."
American Judaism: A History
American Judaism: A History
"Sarna begins with the first Jews to arrive in Colonial North America in 1654 and brings the story of Judaism in the U.S. right up to the present day. A masterful achievement. Very informative."
Jimmy Carter, the Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (Since 1970: Histories of Contemporary America)
Jimmy Carter, the Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (Since 1970: Histories of Contemporary America)
"Flippen says that when it came to moral questions, President Carter held views that alienated him from the left. At the same time, because of his commitment to the separation of church and state, Carter was unwilling to politically advance his conservative views. Once the Religious Right became a force, the tide had turned. These dynamics contributed to Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980."
Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present
Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present
"An important array of articles on the subject. The 1st ed came out in 1990. Later, some articles were updated, others were added, and the 2nd ed came out in 2007. As with any collection like this, some parts are better than others. Note well: a few of the essays (Nathan Hatch) are great summaries of the author's magnum opus."
Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal
Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal
"Hutchison says that from the time of the legal toleration of religious diversity, forged during the revolutionary period, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, America made real progress in terms of its honoring of that diversity. He identifies this progress as three stages. Pluralism as toleration, inclusion, and finally participation."